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CCC — Result In Brief

Project ID: 229441
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: France

Contextualism to bridge the semantics divide in natural language research

Many theorists shun contextualism, a view that has attracted considerable attention by arguing that the effects of context on content go well beyond what is typically recognised in the field of semantics. An EU initiative defended contextualism as it relates to semantics and natural language.
Contextualism to bridge the semantics divide in natural language research
Conventional research on natural language differentiates between the meaning of an utterance and what the speaker who makes the utterance means and conveys. The latter relies on context while the former is established by linguistic conventions. Contextualism challenges this traditional understanding, arguing that the content of an utterance always depends on the context. With this in mind, the EU-funded CCC (Context, content, and compositionality) project set out to support the claims made by contextualism.

The CCC team spent the first half of the project demonstrating the notion that natural language must be compositional as maintained by semantics, and can still be satisfied while remaining faithful to contextualism. It elaborated a model where the content of a complex expression is a function of the modulated contents of its parts and syntax.

During the second half, project partners addressed the link between the idea of content used in belief-desire psychology, including communication theory, and the idea of content or meaning applied to language expressions. They were able to separate content from semantic value, consider the different limitations applied to them, and acknowledge the role of pragmatics in this process. Researchers used situation theory to relate content and semantic value.

CCC successfully demonstrated that what an utterance says cannot be separated from what the speaker means. This has major implications for the semantics and pragmatics communities and their counterarguments.

Related information


Contextualism, semantics, natural language, utterance, CCC
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